Posts Tagged ‘london’

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The Little House

December 14, 2015

It’s that Christmas story time of year again. Well, sort of. I’m writing this in early November. I’m allowing myself a slow start.

My previous acquaintance with Coningsby Dawson comes from The Kingdom Round the Corner, which I liked a lot of things about without actually liking. The Little House is similarly almost-good, and similarly post-war, and also marginally a Christmas story. And it’s narrated by a house, which is sort of important at the beginning, forgettable through most of the middle, and briefly relevant again at the end. It’s almost cute in the same was Dawson is almost good. You know: there’s a lot of that furniture-having-conversations-after-midnight stuff. I want to like it, but I have limited patience.

The story begins during an air raid shortly before Christmas. The titular house is untenanted, and its caretaker has left the front door open in her haste to find a shelter. Meanwhile, a young widow — known to the house as “the little lady” — is passing through the square in which the house stands with her two small children, Robbie and Joan. They see the open door and take shelter, and so, a few minutes later, does an American soldier on his way to the front. They strike up a sort of friendship, but part without learning each other’s names.

A year later (the Unity of Christmastimes!) the soldier returns to the house, minus an arm, and finds that the little lady and her children live there now. They introduce themselves a little more formally, and take up their friendship where they left off before. He takes the kids to the zoo. He takes the little lady to the theater.It;s pretty obvious where this is going to everyone but the two principals.

She expects him to go home and forget about her. He thinks about whether he’s in love with her and decides that he’s not. So he has to change his mind, and she has to swallow her pride, and the structure of the narrative sort of requires that the house somehow make those things happen, so it does.

I almost really enjoy Coningsby Dawson. He has clever ideas. But his execution leaves me unmoved, and his insistence that a woman isn’t complete without a man to take care of her moves me in probably the opposite direction to what he would wish. This is a small, focused story — just two people, a single setting, a brief span of time and an inevitable conclusion. And if you’re going to do something so simple, you have to do it well. To hold your readers’ attention, if nothing else. But I kept getting distracted by the outside things, the things Dawson didn’t talk about. Like the little lady’s family and narrowing social life, and the soldier’s experience of war.

It’s frustrating when something is almost good. I think I would have really enjoyed this story in the hands of another writer. I think it’s going to take a lot to make me try Dawson again.

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The Imprudence of Prue

January 23, 2015

The Imprudence of Prue is sort of proto-Georgette Heyer — all historical high society and everyone in debt — but set much earlier, at the beginning of the 18th century, and — I don’t know, I thought it felt pretty convincingly historical. It’s by Sophie Fisher, and I can’t find out anything about her, or any other books by her, and I’m kind of disappointed.
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Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

July 8, 2014

I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?

So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton

January 23, 2014

So, I read The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton, by E. Phillips Oppenheim, and…I kind of don’t want to talk about it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Lodger

January 8, 2014

Marie Belloc Lowndes’ The Lodger has been on my TBR list for a long time, but I tend to avoid horror fiction, and all I really knew about The Lodger was a basic synopsis, that it was based on the story of Jack the Ripper, and that it had been made into a Hitchcock movie.

I don’t feel like I know a lot more about it now.

The central character is Ellen Bunting, a former maid married to a former butler. The Buntings live in a poor but quiet neighborhood in East London, and rent out rooms. Only no one’s wanted to rent their rooms for a while, so they’re on he verge of starvation when the story opens. Then a gentleman arrives, eccentric but respectable-looking, with no luggage and a pile of money, and rents — well, basically all the rooms, so that he will remain the Buntings’ only lodger. He seems weird, but he’s also quiet and well-spoken, and they do desperately need money. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Pam Decides

September 4, 2012

I read Pam Decides, the sequel to Pam, on Sunday. A note at the beginning suggests that Pam was never intended to have a sequel, but I occasionally felt, as I read Pam Decides, that Pam existed for no other reason than to provide an excuse for one. Which isn’t true, but tells you a little bit about how I feel about both. I still like Pam, a lot, which is to say that I still find it frustrating and delightful and moving and difficult to describe. But my thoughts and feelings about Pam Decides are a little different.

When we last saw Pamela Yeoland, she had just been left penniless, homeless and friendless by the death of her grandfather. Her loving but neglectful parents were abroad somewhere. James Peele had proposed that Pam become his mistress after he married her cousin Henrietta, causing her to lose all respect for him. Eight years later, Pam’s 27th birthday finds her living in a boarding house in London with Jane Pilgrim, her old nurse, and making a scant living by writing romance novels. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Joseph Vance

August 15, 2011

It’s been more than two weeks now since I finished Joseph Vance, and I’m now slowly coming to the conclusion that I like it too much to write a review of it. It’s a shame, because it’s pretty awesome — like David Copperfield, only less squishy (and I mean that with all possible respect to David Copperfield).

When I read Somehow Good, I thought William de Morgan was secretly awesome. Now I think he’s criminally underrated.